Sunday, 25 October 2015

Decoding words using 'Ac-'

Image result for mountainIf we take the prefix ‘ac-‘ and look at a variety of words that begin with those two letters, we see how they are linked. ‘Ac-‘ in Latin means the pinnacle, tip or highest point of something.

‘Acme’ was popularised by the Looney Tunes cartoons and was a US brand name deliberately spelt in a way that it would appear at the top of an alphabetical list of companies; the idea being it would be the first choice of customers who couldn’t be bothered to read further down the list of brand names.

‘Acne’ also uses the same prefix and refers to spots or small pinnacles on the skin.

The original ‘acrobats’ were tightrope walkers and the idea was they would walk and balance on the highest point of something.

The mid seventeenth-century term ‘acropolis’ originally referred to Athens and was the fortified part that was usually built on a hill.

Someone who has ‘acrophobia’ is afraid of heights.

An ‘acronym’ uses the tip or pinnacle of words (the first letters) and puts them together, such as ‘laser’ meaning ‘light amplification by stimulated emission of radiation which derives from the 1960s.

Similarly, an ‘acrostic’ poem is a poem formed when each line starts with a letter of a particular word.

However, it does not work with all words that begin with ‘ac’. ‘Accolade’ for example, comes from the Latin via French ‘accolada’ (‘ac’ meaning ‘to’ and ‘collum’ meaning ‘neck’) because the first accolades were hugs given around the neck rather than the tap of a sword on a shoulder as the tradition is today in a knighthood ceremony. 

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